© Brescia - Amisano

85 minutes of delight: Spoerli’s “Goldberg Variations” at La Scala

English Review –

Bach’s beautiful Goldberg Variations are undoubtedly an iconic pinnacle of Western music. Heinz Spoerli gives new life to these thirty variations by exploring a new choreographic architecture in which body and movement (and, of course, form) share a new kind of relationship. Spoerli mixes classical steps with discrete athleticism making the dancers interact in the most different ways. The dance moves from playfulness to elegant melancholy – trios, pas de deux and solos follow each other, from variation to variation, and are exceedingly well defined. Here music flows the way life does, in a way.

Spoerli’s Goldberg Variations have no interval, nor elaborate sceneries, and the dancers wear only coloured leotards. As soon as the curtain rises, though, it is easy to realize this ballet doesn’t need anything else. Three years after the Milanese premiere of “Cello Suites”, a new Spoerli’s masterpiece enters the repertoire of La Scala Ballet, on stage until March 22.

Virna Toppi and Nicola Del Freo © Brescia – Amisano

With Alexey Botvinov as the pianist (maybe the only one who performed the Goldberg Variations on stage more than three hundred times ), the choreography reveals its richness of detail at every step. First Soloist Antonino Sutera superbly combines precision and cheerfulness – it immediately becomes clear he is the one who steals the show. He responds to the music’s vibrancy with both boyish enthusiasm and sensitive passion, and it is evident he is the most humanly open and skilled member of the cast. His timing and his musicality are unimpeachable, and in the seventeenth variation his dancing is extraordinarily buoyant, and as powerful as flashing.

Antonino Sutera and La Scala corps de ballet © Brescia – Amisano

First Soloist Claudio Coviello dances capably and does his utmost but, compared to Sutera, his lack of artistic depth is almost always apparent. First Soloist Nicoletta Manni finds a role that perfectly suits her and her technique – her stylish approach is subtle yet striking, and she looks both chic and glittering while stepping on stage with a nearly snobbish manner. The most well-made and somehow visceral pas de deux is the one danced by Soloist Virna Toppi and corps member Nicola Del Freo, set to the twenty-first variation – she wears a yellow-green leotard, he an orange one, and the interaction between the two is full of passionate tension. Del Freo looks more in the role, as Toppi seems slightly too glad to be there dancing and less conflicting, but the whole duet resounds with deeply-felt longing and, in spite of their relatively young age, they both reveal an onstage authority that is very pleasant to watch.

It is hard for Soloist Francesca Podini to convey a true sense of beauty, but Soloist Antonella Albano looks fresh and jesting and corps member Martina Arduino performs with a quite expansive elan.

Eighty-five minutes of plotless delight, at times danced with a suggestion of temps perdu, of poignancy, yet able to provide shivers of enthusiasm.

by Alessandro Bizzotto